Rural Nevada lawmakers are proposing a bill that would improve liability protections for horse-related accidents and injuries.
Sen. Pete Goicoechea and Assemblyman John Ellison introduced SB 129 to the Senate Committee on Judiciary on Monday.
Current state law puts an automatic liability on land or horse owners if a horse-related injury happens, even if the person riding the horse was acting negligently, Goicoechea said. He said the bill was a “reasonable” guard against frivolous lawsuits and would protect veterinarians and horse owners from liability as long as they act safely and let participants know of the “inherent risks” involved with riding horses.
“If you’re negligent, you’re on the hook,” the Eureka Republican said.
Nevada is one of five states, including Alaska, California, Maryland and New York, that don’t have horse-related injury liability laws in place. Goicoechea said the bill is especially important for rural Nevadans who use horses on a regular basis.
“We’re representing the cow towns,” he testified. “This is coming straight out of northeastern Nevada.”
Some rural horse owners and animal activist groups testified in favor of the bill.
Nevada Justice Association lobbyist Bill Bradley said the bill went too far in how it defined negligence and it could prevent the victims of preventable accidents from filing lawsuits. Bradley said he’d work with Goicoechea on changing the bill’s language.
Goicoechea said he has introduced similar legislation in past sessions but believed it stands a better chance of passing now that Republicans control the Senate.
“The last word I had from trial attorneys was, when you get in the majority you can have the bill,” he said. “We are in the majority, so we’re going to bring the bill.”
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